Illegal Contractors Rounded up in Monterey County Sting
Undercover enforcement operation targets chronic law-breakers
SACRAMENTO — Ten people face charges for illegal contracting after being caught in a sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), in cooperation with the Monterey County District Attorney's Office. The suspects were targeted from illegal ads, complaints and referrals from local law enforcement. Investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and requested bids on painting, concrete, landscaping, and fencing at a home in the Salinas area on February 19, 2009.
The ten suspects were given a Notice to Appear (NTA) for illegal advertising and contracting without a state license; two were repeat offenders. "Illegal contracting is not a victimless crime," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "We are continuing to work with local partners like the Monterey County District Attorney and the state Department of Insurance in stings like this to help protect property owners from unscrupulous individuals."
To become licensed, a contractor must have at least four years of journey-level experience and pass two licensing exams. California contractors must carry a license bond, and provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees. A homeowner could be financially at risk if workers who aren't covered have an accident while on their property.
CSLB conducts an average of one sting each week somewhere in the state. "Consumers don't realize the serious risks they take when hiring unqualified people to work on their property," said Sands. "Just because someone is local, it doesn't mean they are safe. Many of the suspects caught up in CSLB stings routinely have other, more serious legal problems."
The suspects who received NTAs will appear in Monterey County Superior Court on March 27, 2009, to answer the misdemeanor charges, which carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Penalties increase if the suspects are caught a second time.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB's automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Check references; get three bids and a written contract.
- Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates California's 316,000 contractors and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2007-08, CSLB helped recover $35.2 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
- 7027.1(a) Illegal advertising
- 7028(a) Contracting without a license
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